Amnesty boxes

The varied contents of the Aspen-Pitkin County Airport’s two cannabis amnesty boxes, which have seen unwavering popularity since Colorado legalized the drug in 2014.

If the myriad contents of the cannabis amnesty boxes at the Aspen-Pitkin County Airport are any indication, many people are wildly overestimating how much they can consume during a vacation here, had second thoughts about trying to bring marijuana back home, or both.

On Wednesday, a sheriff’s deputy emptied the two innocuous-looking receptacles, something that happens every couple of months. The boxes allow travelers to rid themselves of the drug with no questions asked. While there seemed to be a mind-numbing amount of products collected for disposal this week, undersheriff Ron Ryan said it was not out of the ordinary.

“I thought this would sort of wane a little bit over time,” he said. “With a lot of what we’ll see, it’s clear someone made a bulk purchase, consumed a small amount, and then the rest gets dumped. Either they didn’t know what they were getting into, or they changed their mind. There’s a lot of brand-new, unwrapped product.”

Here’s a brief inventory of the boxes’ contents: edibles (including “aphrodisiac chocolate” and Green Hornet gummies), nearly 30 joints, an assortment of vape pens, pipes, lotions and, of course, flowery bud.

The first secure, bolted-down box was installed near the airport entryway for departures in 2014 just before Aspen’s first retail marijuana store opened. It proved so popular that a second one was installed. And then a third box was placed near the Transportation Security Administration checkpoint, where “a lot of this decision-making takes place,” he said.

But Ryan said the latter was recently removed because it was in the way of airport operations. Another is available every winter to X Games attendees.

Sardy Field and Colorado Springs’ airport are the only ones in the state to have such boxes. While the drug is legal in Colorado, the feds still consider its possession to be a crime, and it is illegal to transport it through federal airspace or across state lines. Denver International Airport, also in early 2014, banned marijuana possession, and a spokesperson told The Cannabist news outlet in February that it feels no need for amnesty boxes, though there are trashcans at TSA checkpoints where people can dispose of restricted items. In fact, DIA saw so few encounters of flyers with cannabis that it no longer tracks such contacts, The Cannabist reported. The outlet also reported that McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas, which legalized marijuana in July, installed 10 amnesty boxes.

Looking at a photo provided by the sheriff’s office, Logan Garrison, a manager at the Stash dispensary in Aspen, grabbed a calculator and helpfully provided an estimate of what the boxes’ contents are worth (or were worth: The sheriff’s office takes them to the county landfill, where they are rendered until they’re unfit for consumption and buried).

There are “$15,000 to $20,000 worth of products in that photo right there,” he said. “To see that much product in the amnesty box is rather surprising.”

But how to smuggle the products home is “our most common question,” Garrison said. “A majority of customers who come in here are excited to know how to get it home, and as employees we can’t speak to that. It’s totally up to them. Obviously it’s happening.”